Welcome to the Wallpaper* Design Awards! The awards are not only an honour roll of outstanding places, products and people, but also a testament to design’s ability to respond to evolving needs, lift our spirits, and serve the public good. These qualities become particularly evident when unprecedented circumstances compel us to rethink our priorities and adjust our ways of living. This issue celebrates inspiring feats of creative brilliance from the past 12 months, and reminds us that despite the challenges we’ve faced, there are many reasons to be grateful.

Among them are ambitious architectural projects that are revitalising the public realm, such as the Bourse de Commerce in Paris (our limited-edition cover star), where François Pinault wants to ‘share his passion for contemporary art with as broad an audience as possible’. We brought together Mr Pinault and the legendary Tadao Ando for a joint interview, where they introduce this art museum and architectural destination, and look back on their exceptional two-decade partnership.

Over in rural Thailand, we explore Boonserm Premthada’s Elephant World, a sanctuary that protects noble beasts while preserving the culture of their keepers; and on the shores of Mindelo, Cape Verde, we survey a floating music hub by NLÉ that honours the rich cultural heritage of Africa and its diaspora, and promises nights of revelry once it’s safe to have social gatherings again.

Then there’s triumphs of the imagination, from Jaime Hayon’s playground for the Hyundai Museum of Kids’ Books & Art in Namyangju, South Korea, where fantastic beasts transform into slides and see-saws; to Satoshi Kondo’s S/S21 collection for Issey Miyake, 41 looks that can be folded, stacked, tied and rolled into a single shipping box; and a necklace by Claire Choisne for Boucheron with diamond-set wings that look poised to take flight.

We’re also counting our lucky stars for the otherworldly escapes that fill us with wanderlust: a pair of mountainside cabins on Chile’s Pacific coast; an omakase restaurant in the Mexican jungle; and in the virtual realm, Net-a-Porter’s Animal Crossing island, which offers gaming with a sartorial twist. And because time at home has enhanced our appreciation for well-appointed domestic spaces, we have a generous helping of interiors pages with dream set-ups – for working from home, lounging in the garden, lazing in bed and more – where we highlight the best furniture and technology launches of the year. 

Of course, no Wallpaper* Design Awards issue would be complete without our top prizes, the Judges’ Awards. Honourees include a pair of Designers of the Year who are advocating for design’s power to address climate and social instabilities, a Best New Public Building that provides a place for worship while bringing water back to a dried-up landscape; a Best New Grooming Product that offers an inclusive and sustainable solution to a need in the market; and a Life-Enhancer of the Year that leverages local materials and techniques to improve sanitation, all showing that design really is the way to a better world. 

Thank you to our judging panel: installation artist and filmmaker Isaac Julien; our 2020 Designer of the Year Sabine Marcelis; CFDA award-winning fashion designer Christopher John Rogers; Silicon Valley maven and Google VP of design for hardware Ivy Ross; and Snøhetta co-founder, architect Kjetil Trædal Thorsen. And a hat-tip too to Larry Fink, the fabled portraitist who photographed our five judges, remotely from his farm in eastern Pennsylvania. The email in which he accepted our commission is going straight into our hall of fame: ‘It would seem that working off the Zoom screen is out of my ordinance,’ he wrote. ‘But wow, I live to smell the fruit of the unknown. So yes. Tell me more.’ 

Please join me in congratulating the worthy winners of this year’s Wallpaper* Design Awards. I hope you enjoy the issue!

Sarah Douglas